Trauma and burnout among Australian teachers
A groundbreaking study by Monash University has revealed how prevalent trauma and burnout are among Australian teachers. The first known comprehensive study on the nature and extent of secondary trauma among teachers in Australia, highlights the benefits of trauma-informed teacher training.
Monash University conducted a survey with 302 Australian primary and secondary school teachers to understand how exposure to students who experience trauma impacts a teacher’s own mental health and wellbeing.
The study found that more than 80% of teachers report they’ve supported at least one student during their career who has been exposed to trauma, with 45% of teachers reporting their own personal history of trauma (Berger, 2023).
The study found that these teachers are at greater risk of experiencing secondary traumatic stress compared to teachers who have not been exposed to students experiencing trauma.
Findings identified that the majority of teachers in Australia experience moderate to high levels of secondary trauma. This is typically shown through experiences of stress, helplessness, disturbed sleep, and intrusive thoughts.
The difference trauma-informed teacher training can make
It was found that teachers with fewer years of teaching experience and less exposure to trauma-informed professional development were more likely to experience secondary traumatic stress compared to more experienced and trauma-informed teachers.
The study reads: “Trauma-informed professional development and programs have emerged as an evidence-based strategy for teachers to act on, minimise, and reverse the effects of trauma experienced by their students.”
"Research shows trauma-informed programs can improve student academic performance, their social-emotional wellbeing, and prevent depression and post-traumatic stress of students after they experience a traumatic event."
Results in the study revealed that when teachers are confident to address students’ trauma, they’re more likely to experience compassion satisfaction, compared with teachers who are less confident. Compassion satisfaction refers to teachers’ satisfaction derived from supporting students affected by trauma.
The Monash study shows that close to 40% of teachers have had the opportunity to receive trauma-informed professional development.
Our ReLATE model
Reframing Learning and Teaching Environments (ReLATE) is a research and trauma-informed education model that provides a blueprint for schools to create supportive environments for teaching and improved student learning and wellbeing. Within ReLATE, the wellbeing of teachers and students is understood as an essential pre-condition for quality teaching and learning.
The ReLATE model provides a whole-of-school framework that creates culture change and supports teachers to
implement and sustain trauma-informed strategies in the classroom.
Berger E. (2023) ‘Supporting students dealing with trauma taking a heavy toll on teachers’ wellbeing’ Lens, 17 October. Available at: Burnout: Student trauma taking a heavy toll on teachers’ wellbeing – Monash Lens